Protesters gathered in Union Square, New York City, July 22, to demand justice for the latest victims of police
brutality against black people: Sandra
Bland and Kindra Chapman. Both were
young black women found dead in jail in the
past two weeks shortly after being taken
into custody. Their deaths, being called suicides by the authorities, have raised suspicion among their families and friends and a
nationwide call for answers and accountability.
South Asian organizing center DRUM
was present and had a moment in the line-up of speakers at the rally and other desi
supporters held signs in the crowd.
‘We are here to show South Asian solidar-
ity with the black community and Black
Lives Matter,’ Talia Arif of DRUM said.
‘People say, “All lives matter.” But when in
American history have all lives mattered?
They haven’t. All lives have never mattered
— not immigrant lives, not black lives, not
Native American lives.’
Arif’s words were met with cheers.
‘This is not new,’ she added. ‘The system
was set up to work against all oppressed
people. Without black liberation, no other
people can be liberated.’
She then led a chant that often rings out
as marchers make their presence known on
the streets: ‘Indict, convict, send those killer
cops to jail; the whole damn system is guilty
Other speakers focused on the details of
what has been revealed thus far in the Bland
case. The 28 year old was arrested July 10 in
Texas after a routine traffic stop for failing
to signal while changing lanes. A Dashcam
video made public July 21 shows the officer,
Brian Encinia, asking that Bland put out
her cigarette during their interaction,
demanding her to get out of her car when
she refuses to put it out, and then resorting
swiftly to threatening her with a taser. After
she’s out of the car, another video submitted
by a bystander who captured the scene on
his cellphone, shows Encinia pinning Bland
to the ground.
‘She was arrested for resisting arrest,’
another speaker said. ‘She was arrested for
When Bland was allegedly found hanging
in her cell three days later, the facts sur-
rounding the case led to public outrage, par-
ticularly in light of racial violence at the
hands of law enforcement that has increas-
ingly been illuminated over the past year.
Just one day after Bland’s death, Kindra
Chapman, only 18, was found dead in an
Alabama jail cell. Alabama police said she
‘These deaths are happening at such an
alarming rate that we can’t even get the
word out,’ the speaker continued.
South Asian activists and allies said they
came out to fight for justice for Bland,
Chapman, and countless others, some of
whom were named at the rally: Eric Garner,
Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown,
Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, and many more
lesser known by the media.
“It’s important for me and all South
Asians to mobilize against racism and white
supremacist terrorism and to be here becau-
se if we’re invested in our own liberation, it
won’t come without black liberation,” youth
organizer Shaktii Shaktii told India Abroad.
“Black folks are the most violently and most
often radicalized people on this land.”
South Asians have histories, starting with
the first immigrants who came to the US, of
assimilating and participating in the systems that create anti-black violence, even if
unknowingly, Shaktii explained: “That’s
why it’s so important for us to show up in
solidarity, put our bodies on the line, and
amplify black voices in the struggle.”
India Community Center’s Sevathon 2015, held in Sunnyvale, California, July 12, saw the participation of 3,500.
With a walkathon/marathon — with 10k, 5k and
half marathon options — it is one of the largest such
events hosted by Indian Americans, with the highest
In the 2015 edition 300 attempting the half-marathon was a new record.
“The calculations are still not completed, but this
year we raised $500,000 and had over 116 non-profit
booths,” Anuradha Jagadeesh, co-chair, Sevathon,
told India Abroad. The participation of non-profits
has never been higher, she added.
Begun in 2009, with just a few hundred people and
10 non-profits, the effort has been growing year on
year, “It’s a huge project, working year round, bringing teams of people. More than a 100 volunteers and
their hard work led to its success,” Jagadeesh said.
While Sevathon is the big-ticket event, all through
the year, Jagdeesh said, they host speaker series,
where non-profits address the audience on how to
sustain and scale a non-profit and raise funds.
To boost participation, Sevathon gives a spirit
award to the non-profit that raises the most funds
and has maximum participants. “It is becoming a
serious race. But it’s a healthy competition on how
much each can raise. Now we see they help each
other,” said Jagadeesh.
Sukumar Sudhakar, president, India TEAM, a Bay
Area non-profit that help schools in India, said they
offered marathon training to the 144 participants
registered through them. They had the second highest participation numbers, while Sankara Eye Foundation
had the most.
“I made it, so I am excited and happy,” said Geetam Das,
who practiced three times a week, running 5 miles: “This is
the start. I’ve to keep the momentum going.”
Another half-marathon runner, Piyush Pandey, said, “It’s
good to see similar faces every time and
running together. It’s fun.”
His son Kanishk, 8, did the 10k with
his mom Kamala Subramaniam.
Kamala, who took 85 minutes to finish the 10k, said
the Sevathon was a great place to for the family.
Ketan Desai, representing Boston Privates, felt the
Sevathon provided exposure. His son Siddhartha
Desai, 11, who he ran 5k, said, “I like running. What I
like most about Sevathon is it’s not competitive and
it’s just fun.”
Vikash Chhagan heard about the Sevathon from a
friend and came from Seattle, “We do not have such
Indian association in Seattle. I think it’s wonderful to
see all the people here and (to see) how engaged they
are in the community. It’s really an eye opener.”
The youth awards went to high school
students Aditya Gunda and Hersh Solanki who start-
ed non-profit Catch a Z Foundation, helping under-
The human rights award was given to Rebecca
Dharmpalan, an activist and award winning filmmaker for her documentary International Boulevard.
Shubham Banerjee, founder of Braigo Labs and
winner of the India Abroad Award for Special
Achievement 2014, won the community award.
The education award went Arvind Sridhar who set
up a national geography resource to spread geo-liter-acy among kids.
Saagar Gupta, winner of the Microsoft Imagine Cup and
chief marketing officer at Hashtagr, a social media company, won the business award.
Black and brown unite for Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman
At the protest in Union Square, New York City, July 22. CHAYA BABU
Inside Sevathon 2015.
3,500 desis ran for charity